Jeff Hawkins, the creator of the Palm Pilot, is a spectacular example of an innovating entrepreneur. He founded Palm Computing and later Handspring (inventing the Palm Pilot and Treo, respectively).
My theory is if Jeff had stayed with Palm, and not been distracted with starting Handspring the company would have been in a different position today. JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg was quoted discussing the Palm company without Jeff, “All those guys wanted to do is enjoy the fruits of their labor […] It would have helped move things along a lot faster at Palm if they had stayed.” His companiesâ€™ fortunes aside, he has been successful in his sequence of innovations. And it was not because he was driven for the fame or fortune.
He has been successful for two reasons:
1. Jeff did what he loved.
Loving your work is absolutely the greatest motivation for choosing a career path. His obsession started before Palm was even a thought and opened up a billion dollar industry. Ever since he read an issue of Scientific American about the brain, Hawkins has been interested in studying how brains work. His goal was to solve the major problems in the study of human intelligence and to achieve a theoretical understanding of how the brain works. No corporate job was able to create a fulfilling career for him. He left Intel and other corporate jobs stating, â€œthey didnâ€™t offer enough responsibility.â€ While working for Palm he was quoted as saying, â€œMy research into human cognition is a lifelong pursuit. It began before Palm, and it will last beyond Palm. The research and the company go together.â€
Jeff was quoted telling his employees, â€œIf youâ€™re not enjoying yourself, you shouldnâ€™t be here. Thatâ€™s how I run my life. I have never felt burdened by my work.â€ The people around him latched on to this motto and helped him bring together a great organization.
He still shows the will to do what he loves which he has demonstrated this by founding two new organizations. Numenta is a company developing technology based on his book, On Intelligence. He has also started a non-profit organization called Redwood Neuroscience Institute, which gives neurological theorists a chance to collaborate and neurological students to attend workshops and seminars to enhance their education.
2. Jeff Surrounded Himself with Great People.
The success behind Palm started with Jeff surrounding himself with great people that complemented his talents. One of his first hires was Donna Dubinsky. She was the hands-on powerhouse behind the operations and strategy of the company. Her goal was to put Jeff in the best environment and let him do what he does best: innovate. Even when they were millions of dollars in the hole after their first release of the PDA, their synergy drove them to success, a continuing testament to their teamwork, Jeff and Donna continue to work together in their new company Numenta where they are continuing to expand as a team. Only a dynamic duo like this could get so much done in such a fast paced industry.
How do these relate to a young entrepreneur?
In the digital age there is plenty of opportunity to start something great. Doing what you love and surrounding yourself with great people are two concepts that are simple enough to use as themes when starting a company. Jeff Hawkins has demonstrated this strategy and has had an excellent track record. Go ahead and look behind other successful people, teams and companies! I am willing to bet this theme is continuous.